MGM watch: Amazon tightens its grip on Leo the Lion

Recently, Amazon, which acquired Metro-Goldwyn Mayer for $8.45 billion, has been taking control over the home studio of the James Bond film franchise.

Examples:

–Deadline: Hollywood acquired internal emails showing that Jennifer Salke, chief of Amazon Studios, is now formally in charge of MGM.

Salke now is in charge of Amazon Studios and MGM. Christopher Brearton, who had been chief operating officer of MGM, now has a new executive job.

Before the Amazon deal, MGM’s film division was headed by Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. Eon liked the duo and said they wished they’d stay. But they departed earlier and landed at Warner Bros.

–Mark Burnett, who had created Survivor The Apprentice and other “reality” shows and who had headed MGM’s TV division, is gone, noted The Hollywood Reporter.

Back in 2018, THR reported that Burnett was instrumental in having then MGM CEO Gary Barber fired. What goes around, comes around, one supposes.

To be sure, anytime there’s an acquisition, executive changes occur.

The main question — from the perspective of James Bond fans — is whether any of this affects the 007 franchise. Eon and its parent company Danjaq control the creative rights to the franchise. But Danjaq/Eon relies on its studio partner to finance the films.

Bond music documentary: Some recycled material

John Barry (1933-2011)

I am watching the new James Bond music documentary on Amazon Prime. It’s very entertaining. But it also recycles a lot of interviews originally done in the 1990s for DVD extras for the Bond films.

Some of the videos of John Barry (1933-2011) for those extras are obvious to anyone who watched them originally. Also, some of the Barry interview footage was shown for a 2006 special about Bond footage on the BBC.

Some interviews with Monty Norman also were originally shown on those DVD extras.

That’s not to say it’s all recycled. There are some more recent interviews. It appears Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions made recent comments. Ditto for David Arnold, who scored five Bond films for Eon.

In the documentary, Barbara Broccoli says the title song for No Time to Die was from the female point of view.

Bond 26 questions: The Variety interview edition

A previous Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

So, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gave an interview to Variety. The Eon Productions duo again said James Bond won’t return to theater screens soon and they’re looking for the next actor to make a long-time commitment.

However, there were other interesting tidbits. Naturally, the blog has questions.

How many Bond films will get made during an actor’s “10-, 12-year commitment”?

That’s the kind of commitment the Eon pair said they’re looking for from a new Bond actor. But at the current rate of production, that might only be three films. The Eon series had only two entries — Skyfall and SPECTRE — during the entire decade of the 2010s.

Yes, there were external factors, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s bankruptcy in 2010 and COVID-19 in 2020. But some of the gaps were self-imposed, including putting off the development of what became No Time to Die to try and get Daniel Craig back for another movie.

Will Bond 26 with a new actor really be that much different than Craig’s run?

One passage in the Variety story suggests not.

Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is a director of the U.K. chapter of women’s advocacy org Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-womanizing spy and ensuring more fulfilling, meatier roles for the female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the next films, says Broccoli. (emphasis added)

What are they up to in the interim?

Barbara Broccoli is one of the producers of Till, a fact-based film about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and its aftermath. It’s due out next month. Wilson “has written a TV show that the duo are looking to set up,” according to Variety. And both are involved in producing an Amazon streaming show 007’s Road to a Million. That is currently in production, Variety says. Amazon also owns MGM.

Producers talk to Variety about casting next Bond

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

The next James Bond actor has to be in it for the long haul, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson told Variety in an interview.

“And when we cast Bond, it’s a 10-, 12-year commitment,” Broccoli said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh yeah, it’d be fun to do one,’ Well. That ain’t gonna work.”

Wilson told Variety: “It’s a big investment for us, too, to bring out a new Bond.”

Eon’s most recent Bond actor, Daniel Craig, was cast as Bond in 2005 when he was 37. His five-film run as Bond ended with 2021’s No Time to Die. That film ended with Bond being blown to smithereens in a sacrifice play for his wife, Madeline Swann, and daughter.

Variety conducted the interview in late August. At one point, the producers said it’s early days for the search. Broccoli again said Bond 26 won’t go into production soon. “(I)t’s going to be a couple of years off.” 

There was also this exchange:

Even in this interview, when asked whether (MGM owner) Amazon might ask for a narrative Bond TV show, Wilson notes, “We’re trying to keep it theatrical,” and Broccoli swiftly retorts: “Well, we’re gonna keep it theatrical. We’re not going to try; we’ve got to do it. It’s just a theatrical franchise.”

WB to distribute MGM movies internationally, Deadline says

MGM logo

Warner Bros. has agreed to distribute Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films internationally, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The agreement begins with “with Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All in November and continuing with the 2023 slate and beyond; the second title under the pact being Creed III in March,” Deadline said.

However, Warner Bros., part of Warner Bros. Discovery, will not be involved with MGM’s James Bond series right away.

No Time to Die, the most recent Bond film, was distributed by Universal internationally. That will remain in effect for Bond 26, according to Deadline.

“The terms of the new Warner Bros. agreement with MGM include the foreign distribution of subsequent 007 films from Bond 27 onward,” according to the entertainment news website.

Barbara Broccoli, the head of Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, has said it will be “at least two years” before Bond 26 begins filming. That would imply Bond 26 won’t be out until 2025 or so.

On the Warner Bros. side, the new agreement was hammered out by Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. They were formerly film executives at MGM.

Eon spoke highly of De Luca and Abdy and said it hoped they’d be retained after Amazon completed its acquisition of MGM. Instead, De Luca and Abdy departed and landed at Warner Bros.

Bond 26 questions: The how long (?) edition

Not coming to a theater near you anytime soon

So Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions, says (in remarks reported by Deadline) that James Bond is about to be reinvented and that filming of Bond 26 won’t take place for at least two years.

Also, she said, there’s no actor and no script. Neither will happen until the reinvention occurs.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So when might Bond 26 come out? The MI6 James Bond website estimates “2025, possibly later.”

That makes sense. Two years from now is 2024. The film would then go into post-production and may not be out until 2025.

Are there potential complications? Amazon, the new owner of studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is yet to be heard from. Would Amazon try to pressure Eon to move faster? Or is the tech company satisfied with all the Bond programming Amazon Prime has?

Is this a surprise? No. Eon is not known for advanced planning.

Some Bond fans hoped it’d be different this time. No Time to Die completed filming in fall 2019. It then went on the shelf until fall 2021.

Eon had time to look to the future if it wanted to do so. But Barbara Broccoli said after No Time to Die came out she was celebrating the tenure of Daniel Craig as Bond. She didn’t sound as if she were in a hurry to deal with a post-Craig era.

What might take place because of this? No Time to Die stirred a strongly mixed reaction in the fanbase. For some, Craig/Bond’s death was a bold creative choice. Others strongly did not like it.

Now, that mixed atmosphere will linger, with at least a four-year gap between No Time to Die and Bond 26.

Anything else? It’s getting harder to imagine the likes of Idris Elba (who turns 50 in September), Henry Cavill, 39, or Tom Hardy (who turns 45 in September) being cast as Bond.

Yes, Roger Moore was in his mid-40s when he began his Bond run but that was a different era.

Yes, Craig was in his 50s when his run finally ended. But he’s a special case, given Broccoli’s strong admiration for the actor. She spoke more than once about being in denial that Craig’s time as Bond was ending.

Broccoli: Decision on new Bond will ‘take some time’

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told Variety that selecting a new James Bond actor is “going to take some time.”

“It’s a big decision,” the Eon chief said. “It’s not just casting a role. It’s about a whole rethink about where we’re going.”

The Variety story was posted today. The interview was conducted Thursday in New York when a new version of Macbeth reopened after a temporary shutdown due to COVID-19. The play stars former Bond Daniel Craig and is produced by Broccoli.

Broccoli again sang Craig’s praises.

“He’s just the greatest actor ever, and I think audiences will be thrilled by this portrayal because he’s funny, he’s dangerous, he’s all the things you would want,” Broccoli told Variety.

The Bond franchise is in flux. Craig has departed after doing five films released over 15 years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, was sold to Amazon last month. The deal was announced last year.

What’s more, MGM’s two top film executives, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, are now gone. Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times last year that they wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay at MGM. That advice wasn’t heeded.

Separately, Amazon made a regulatory filing on Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing valued MGM’s film and TV library at $3.4 billion. Amazon also said it paid off $2.5 billion in debt it assumed from MGM.

Bond 26 questions: The MGM shakeup edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Well, the first shoe has fallen after Amazon bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. MGM’s top two film executives are leaving after Eon Productions said it wanted the duo to stay.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this really unexpected?

No. Companies rarely spend billions of dollars to buy a company and just say, “We’re not going to make any changes.” Acquirers simply don’t do that. Ask the staff of CNN + after new owners pulled the plug on the new streaming service just a few weeks after completing the deal.

Are the departing MGM executives angry?

You couldn’t tell it by the statement that Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy put out to their staff. Variety got a copy. It began thusly:

A little over two years ago we came to MGM to help restore its vibrancy among the storied studios of the last century and we are proud to say, thanks to all of you and your efforts, it is mission accomplished.

Are you a little skeptical?

In these situations, departing executives often get a buyout as long as they stay quiet or say nice things. Executives who get in trouble with a company’s board of directors suddenly find they have a hankering to retire, etc.

What does this mean for James Bond movies?

Hard to say for now. But Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson last year gave a statement to The New York Times that they really, really wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay. Presumably, they’re not happy this week with this development.

What should Bond fans watch out for?

Bond is one of MGM’s main assets. Amazon surely knows this. There is a Bond-themed reality show in the works (a sort of Bond version of The Amazing Race). Will there be other attempts to expand the franchise? We’ll see.

MGM film execs favored by Eon to depart studio, Variety says

MGM logo

Two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives favored by Eon Productions are departing the studio, Variety reported.

Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the top two executives in MGM’s film division, “have both been let go of the company,” the entertainment news outlet said. An excerpt:

De Luca had recently made overtures to David Zaslav about coming to Warner Bros. Discovery, according to an insider. The rumor mill has been swirling in recent weeks about the executives long-term future, with many predicting that he would be headed for the exit soon.

In July 2021, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times after Amazon agreed to buy MGM. “Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this.”

The statement quoted the Eon duo as saying, “Amazon has assured us that Bond will continue to debut” in movie theaters, according to the Times. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca’s title was chairman of MGM’s motion picture group while Abdy was his deputy. Amazon already had its own film operation.

Executive changes are common after corporate acquisitions. Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal for MGM was announced last year and became final in March.

For Eon, the departure of De Luca and Abdy means the company that produces James Bond films will have yet another MGM executive team to deal with. It remains to be seen how this will affect the development of Bond 26. Actor Daniel Craig has exited the role of Bond after five movies from 2006 through 2021.

State of the Bond franchise: Spring 2022

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The James Bond film franchise, consisting of the films made by Eon Productions, has reached 25 movies. What’s next?

The run with actor Daniel Craig is over with 2021’s No Time to Die. That run lasted more than 15 years, extended by financial problems at Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli wants to celebrate Craig and No Time to Die. There’s no sign that celebration is over yet.

Since No Time to Die was made, MGM got a new owner in tech giant Amazon. This week, in the U.K., Eon’s 25-film Bond catalog became available via Amazon Prime. Also, Amazon announced a Bond-themed reality show featuring contestants racing around the globe.

But what is happening with the core of the franchise — future James Bond movies?

Is Barbara Broccoli really ready to move on from Daniel Craig? The actor was her choice. Previous Bond actors were chosen by her father, Albert R. Broccoli.

But again, what happens now?

After six decades, the movie business has changed immensely from Dr. No in 1962. Sean Connery’s original film Bond today is derided as “rapey.” Home video and technology changes have altered how viewers get their Bond entertainment.

Once again, Bond is in a state of flux. The character has entered and exited previous such states.

We’ll see how it goes this time.